By - Jim Vess

Solar market cools in the third quarter of 2017, solar import uncertainties loom

Energize Weekly, December 20, 2017 The U.S. solar market cooled in the third quarter of 2017 with a projected 22 percent decline in installations for the year when compared with record-setting 2016, according to a report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). While the 2 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) installed in the third quarter

By - Jim Vess

Peak Reliability and PJM join the scramble to create wholesale power markets in the West

Energize Weekly, December 20, 2017 Peak Reliability, the reliability coordinator for the majority of the Western Interconnection, is teaming up with PJM Interconnection, operator of the nation’s biggest wholesale electricity market serving Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states, to explore creating a wholesale power market in the West. The move by Vancouver, Washington-based Peak, which oversees grid reliability in an area that

By - Jim Vess

Platte River Power Authority unveils plan to go ‘net zero’ on carbon emissions by 2030

Energize Weekly, December 13, 2017 The Platte River Power Authority, which serves part of northern Colorado, unveiled a plan Dec. 7 that would transform its generating portfolio to “net zero” carbon emission by 2030. The plan calls for ceasing all coal-burning energy production and making up the difference with increases in natural gas, hydro, wind and solar power. About 75

By - Jim Vess

Almost half of U.S. electricity customers have smart meters and the market will continue to grow

Energize Weekly, December 13, 2017 Nearly half of all electricity customers in the U.S. now have so-called smart meters, paving the way for enhanced grid management, and the pace of installations is projected to continue. Installations of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) meters have more than doubled since 2010 with 71 million of the country’s 150 million electricity customers having one,

By - Jim Vess

States making strides in grid modernization through a variety of initiatives and approaches

Energize Weekly, December 13, 2017 Grid modernization activities, which had been focused in a few high-profile states such as California and New York, are now increasingly becoming a nationwide movement, according to an annual survey by the GridWise Alliance. The alliance—a coalition of businesses, academic institutions and organizations promoting grid development—has been issuing its Grid Modernization Index since 2014. “Many

By - Jim Vess

New York becomes fourth state to set energy storage goals

Energize Weekly, December 6, 2017 New York became the fourth state to set an energy storage target on Nov. 29 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an energy storage bill that was unanimously passed by the state legislature. California, Oregon and Massachusetts have already established energy storage mandates. The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) will set an energy storage target

By - Jim Vess

US faces a $177 billion funding gap in revamping aging power grid, engineering society says

Energize Weekly, December 6, 2017 The investments to overhaul an aging power grid, which is also under pressure to adapt to new technologies, are not keeping pace with the needs and face a $177 billion spending gap, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Transmission has become a priority item for utilities with expenditures up 16 percent between

By - Jim Vess

Link between economic growth and electricity use weakens around the world, says EIA forecast

Energize Weekly, November 29, 2017 The link between economic growth and increasing electricity consumption is weakening around the world, according to the federal Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) International Energy Outlook 2017. Economic growth, as measured in gross national product (GNP), has historically been coupled with increases in electricity demand. “More recently this relationship has been decoupling in many countries,” the

By - Jim Vess

Global market for energy storage poised for rapid growth to 2030, says Bloomberg study

Energize Weekly, November 29, 2017 The market for energy storage is set to soar in the next decade both in the U.S. and globally, according to recent market analyses. The global energy storage market will “double six times” between 2017 and 2030, according to a forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). While that is robust growth, it starts from

By - Jim Vess

Renewable generation on pace to provide 50 percent of California retail electricity by 2020

Energize Weekly, November 22, 2017 California investor-owned utilities will be using renewable generation to cover 50 percent of their retail sales by 2020—10 years ahead of the state deadline, according to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The state originally established a renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) with the portion of retail sales required to be supplied by renewable resources

By - Jim Vess

Utilities and regulators are taking an incremental approach in changing solar subsidies

Energize Weekly, November 22, 2017 After failing at frontal assaults on the “net metering” credit for residential solar arrays, utilities are adopting an incremental approach to their concerns about home rooftop solar. Small transitional steps in dealing with rooftop solar are being taken in dozens of states across the country, according to the NC Clean Energy Technology Center’s “50 States

By - Jim Vess

Federal data shows coal-fired power plant stockpiles average less than 90 days in the last decade

Energize Weekly, November 15, 2017 Federal energy regulators are considering a Trump administration proposal to give coal-fired power plants that keep 90-day fuel stockpiles a “resiliency” subsidy. But data shows that from 2010 to 2016, plants rarely kept fuel reserves that large. Since 2016, reserves have been higher, but in August 2017, the total stockpiles slipped to 144 million tons,

By - Jim Vess

Grid investments swell as utilities seek to deal with old problems and new challenges

Energize Weekly, November 15, 2017 Investment in the nation’s electric grid surged over the past decade and is set to peak in 2019, according to an analysis by energy and management consulting firm ScottMadden. Spending on distribution infrastructure grew by 8.6 percent and spending on transmission infrastructure grew by 16 percent between 2011 and 2016, according to the analysis. That

By - Jim Vess

The world is cutting carbon emissions, but not fast enough to blunt climate change, UN says

Energize Weekly, November 8, 2017 Nations around the world are cutting their carbon emissions, but not in large enough quantities or at a fast enough pace to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement and stave off a sharp rise in global temperatures, according to two new studies. The annual “emission gap” assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme

By - Jim Vess

Solar cell imports face trade commission recommendations for tariffs and quotas

Energize Weekly, November 8, 2017 Imported solar cells and modules could be subject to new trade controls—including licensing fees, quotas and tariffs—under proposals U.S. trade officials are making to President Donald Trump. The members of the International Trade Commission (ITC) made the recommendations in a case brought by two bankrupt solar panel manufacturers—Norcross, Ga.-based Suniva Inc. and Hillsboro, Ore.-based SolarWorld.

By - Jim Vess

U.S. manufacturing becoming less energy intensive as production shifts, EIA says

Energize Weekly, November 1, 2017 The energy intensity of U.S. manufacturing is continuing to decrease, in part through energy efficiency measures and in larger part by a shift in production to less energy-intensive industries, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). Manufacturing energy consumption rose 4.7 percent between 2010 and 2014, while real gross output was up 9.6 percent—resulting

By - Jim Vess

Proposed DOE coal and nuclear plant subsidy could be expensive for consumers, study says

Energize Weekly, November 1, 2017 A Trump administration proposal to provide subsidies to coal-fired and nuclear power plants for their fuel reserves could add $311 million to $10.6 billion to customer bills, with the grants going to a handful of utility companies. More than 80 percent of the subsidies for coal would go to just five companies, and nearly 90

By - Jim Vess

Global gasoline demand set to peak in 2030 as more EVs take to the road, says Wood Mackenzie

Energize Weekly, October 25, 2017 Global demand for gasoline will peak in 2030, followed five years later by oil reaching its maximum worldwide consumption, according to an analysis by Wood Mackenzie, the global energy and commodities consultant. Peak oil demand has been a rolling phenomenon in the developed world with Japanese consumption topping out in 2000, followed by Germany, Italy

By - Jim Vess

Boulder’s effort to create a municipal utility faces challenges at the ballot box and in the courts

Energize Weekly, October 25, 2017 It has been nearly seven years since the city of Boulder, nestled in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, embarked on its quest to leave Xcel Energy and form a municipal electric utility—the next few weeks may decide the fate of the effort. The city faces tests at the polls and before the Colorado

By - Jim Vess

Businesses and institutions moving slowly toward energy planning, Harvard survey finds

Energize Weekly, October 18, 2017 There is a growing concern among business leaders about rising costs and risks in the U.S. power system, but less than a third of businesses have initiated programs to address those worries, according to a survey by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. The key concerns are fluctuating energy prices, the risk of business interruptions

By - Jim Vess

Lack of charging stations may be biggest hurdle in adoption of EVs

Energize Weekly, October 18, 2017 The adoption of electrical vehicles (EVs) is gathering speed, but that momentum could be blunted by a lack of charging stations to service them, according to a new report by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). While currently only 1 percent of the domestic fleet, EV sales over the last four years have grown at a

By - Jim Vess

States take the initiative on energy policy and legislation while gridlock reigns in Washington

Energize Weekly, October 11, 2017 Energy policy, legislation and initiatives are alive and bipartisan in the state houses across the country even as they are bogged down in the nation’s capital, according to the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. More than 12,500 energy bills were introduced in state legislatures between 2013 and 2016, with 1,926

By - Jim Vess

The battery market for industrial and commercial facilities is growing across the country

Energize Weekly, October 4, 2017 The use of battery storage by business and industry to help manage electricity bills is growing rapidly and could potentially be used by millions of commercial customers across the country, according to a recent analysis. Utilities are also installing storage, sometimes coupled with solar or wind installations and sometimes in place of substations, to enhance

By - Jim Vess

Wave of pollution control installations as EPA deadline approached favored activated carbon technology

Energize Weekly, October 4, 2017 A wave of mercury control technology installations—mainly lower-cost activated carbon systems—were made at coal-fired power plants just before the final April 2016 compliance deadline for new emission standards, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA’s preliminary annual electric generator survey shows that there was an increase in installations just before the initial

By - Jim Vess

Sharp drop in 2017 solar module prices imperiled by Suniva trade case ruling

Energize Weekly, September 27, 2017 Driven by falling solar module prices, the cost of utility-scale photovoltaic installations have dropped 30 percent this year, but a federal trade ruling issued Sept. 22 could jack those prices up again. The quarterly solar benchmark study by the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found the cost of utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays declined

By - Jim Vess

The cost of wind power could be cut in half with better modeling and management, NREL study says

Energize Weekly, September 20, 2017 Technological improvements could cut the generating costs of wind power in half, making it as economical as natural gas generation—and the key isn’t just a new turbine, blade or tower, but a supercomputer. A new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in Golden, Colo., outlines an approach to maximizing wind farm efficiency through

By - Jim Vess

Residential solar market set to have its first annual decline in 2017

Energize Weekly, September 20, 2017 Solar installations were at near-record levels in the second quarter of 2017, but the rooftop solar market was weak. The forecast is that residential solar will see its first down year ever. The analysis comes from the quarterly market study by GTM Research, a Wood Mackenzie company, and the Solar Energy Industries Association, an industry

By - Jim Vess

Transmission investment rises spurred by aging infrastructure and a changing grid, survey finds

Energize Weekly, September 13, 2017 Transmission investment has become a growing focus among utility industry executives, according to a survey by Black & Veatch. “Long-term investment, reliability and aging infrastructure are three of the industry’s top five fundamental concerns,” according to the annual Strategic Directions survey done by the Overland Park, Kans.-based engineering and consulting group. The two other concerns

By - Jim Vess

Researchers increase solar cell efficiency by more than 50 percent—cost is the big hurdle

Energize Weekly, September 6, 2017 Swiss and American researchers have developed a silicon-based solar cell with efficiencies as high as 36 percent—a 50 percent increase over the best performing cells on the market. The cells were developed by researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., and the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and École Polytechnique

By - Jim Vess

Xcel Energy proposes replacing two coal-fired plants with mix of wind, solar and natural gas

Energize Weekly, September 6, 2017 Xcel Energy is proposing closing two Colorado coal-fired plants and adding wind, solar and natural gas-fired generation—raising its proportion of renewable electricity production in the state to 55 percent by 2026. “We are very committed to decarbonizing when the technology and policy choices make it possible to do so,” said David Eves, president of Xcel’s

By - Jim Vess

Four trends will reshape the global power sector, says GTM analysis

Energize Weekly, September 6, 2017 The global power sector is being transformed by four potent trends—decarbonization, electric vehicles, decentralization and extending energy access—according to an analysis by the cleantech marketing and consulting group, GTM Research. “The power sector is constantly evolving, but rarely in modern history has it seen such rapid change as it faces today,” Shayle Kann, who leads

By - Jim Vess

Cities push for 100 percent renewable electricity—whether the goal can be met still debatable

Energize Weekly, August 30, 2017 The push to reach 100 percent renewable electricity generation, led by U.S. cities, is sweeping the nation, but what that means and whether it can be done is still a subject of intense debate. Forty cities have set some sort of 100 percent renewable goal. In 2015, Hawaii adopted a renewable power target of 100

By - Jim Vess

Lawrence Berkeley study finds wind and solar may be saving lives and dollars

Energize Weekly, August 23, 2017 Wind and solar generation, in addition to becoming economically competitive, have also provided billions of dollars’ worth of clean air, decreased pollution-related deaths and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study. The study—which calculates the reductions in air pollutants linked to wind and solar replacing fossil fuels between 2007

By - Jim Vess

Solar in tandem with battery storage gaining traction among utilities

Energize Weekly, August 23, 2017 The hottest couple in the utility industry these days may be photovoltaic solar generation and battery storage. The pair is being seen all over the country. Drawbacks to photovoltaic (PV) panels include their intermittent production and the difficulty of matching that production to demand. When the sun isn’t shining, utilities opt for alternative generation. When

By - Jim Vess

The future of the robust U.S. wind market is uncertain as subsidies and mandates end

Energize Weekly, August 16, 2017 The wind energy market is being spurred by declining prices and rising efficiency, but faces a challenging future with the loss of federal subsidies, competition from other types of generation and weak wholesale power markets, according to a U.S. Department of Energy report. The study, 2016 Wind Energy Technologies Market Report, was done by researchers

By - Jim Vess

Western utilities get ready for a solar power blackout during coming total eclipse

Energize Weekly, August 8, 2017 The total solar eclipse set to sweep across the sky on Aug. 21 is going to knock out power from photovoltaic solar panels, and nowhere will the darkness have more impact than in the West. The eclipse will cast a 70-mile-wide shadow across the country affecting solar arrays from Oregon to South Carolina, briefly turning

By - Jim Vess

Corporate power purchase agreements are rapidly growing

Energize Weekly, August 2, 2017 Corporate power purchase agreements, initially the domain of high-visibility, multi-billion-dollar enterprises, are increasingly being used by smaller companies, as well as municipalities and non-profit institutions. The use of the agreements, or PPAs, has soared in the last two years and is on pace for another robust year, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables

By - Jim Vess

New York announces $440 million transmission project to boost renewable energy generation

Energize Weekly, August 2, 2017 A $440 million project to upgrade a 75-year-old transmission line to carry renewable energy was announced last week by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The rebuilt 78-mile transmission line—the project has been dubbed the Moses-Adirondack Smart Path Reliability Project—will help carry wind and hydropower from northern New York to the populated areas downstate. The plan

By - Jim Vess

Minnesota study shows solar-storage tandem becoming an alternative to peakers

Energize Weekly, July 26, 2017 Solar arrays linked to energy storage could be an economic and environmental alternative to natural gas peaking plants in Minnesota by 2023, according to a study submitted to the state’s Public Utilities Commission. The study, Modernizing Minnesota’s Grid: An Economic Analysis of Energy Storage Opportunities, was developed by the Energy Transition Lab (ETL) at the

By - Jim Vess

As natural gas prices rise, coal-fired electricity generation takes the lead

Energize Weekly, July 26, 2017 After natural gas-fired generation slipped ahead of coal as the main source for U.S. electricity for the first time in 2016, rising natural gas prices are giving coal new life this year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). In 2016, natural gas supplied about 34 percent of total U.S. electricity generation, while coal,

By - Jim Vess

Western utilities eye joining Southwest Power Pool, state regulators are wary

Energize Weekly, July 19, 2017 The Mountain West Transmission Group, which represents utilities in eight western states, is considering joining the Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP) wholesale market, a move that is raising cost and reliability questions among state officials. More than 60 percent of the nation’s electricity moves through regional wholesale markets, operated by Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) or Independent

By - Jim Vess

New analytical tool measures generation costs on price of natural gas, strength of the wind and sun

Energize Weekly, July 12, 2017 Utilities across the country, when building new generation, are opting for natural gas-fired plants, wind farms or solar installations. The three have dominated industry investment and a new analytical tool could aid utility executives in deciding which to build. The electricity industry is already planning to increase natural gas-fired generating capacity by 36.6 gigawatts in

By - Jim Vess

Suniva trade cash could slash solar installations, company challenges those estimates

Energize Weekly, July 5, 2017 The push by an U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer to have tariffs slapped on imported solar cells could lead to more than a 50 percent drop in new solar installations between 2018 and 2022, according to analysis by GTM Research. The company seeking the tariff, Norcross, Ga.-based Suniva Inc., said GTM Research has gotten the figures

By - Jim Vess

Minnesota is adopting a methodical approach to grid modernization

Energize Weekly, July 5, 2017 Minnesota—unhampered by the pressures facing some other states—is taking a step-by-step approach in planning and developing a smart grid, one that could be a template for others. The biggest initiatives in grid modernization are in states like New York, where in the wake of Hurricane Sandy there were serious reliability issues, or California and Hawaii,

By - Jim Vess

Colorado Utilities Commission approves Xcel grid modernization plan and revenue decoupling

Energize Weekly, June 28, 2017 The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) took two steps toward modernizing the state’s electricity system June 21 by “decoupling” Xcel Energy revenues from the sale of kilowatt-hours and approving a $612 million grid modernization program. The commission endorsed a five-year decoupling pilot under which the PUC will set an annual revenue target for Xcel, the

By - Jim Vess

More than $10 billion to be spent on new generation worldwide—most of it on renewables

Energize Weekly, June 28, 2017 The world’s energy mix is continuing to evolve with wind and solar projected to account for 82 percent of the installed generation capacity by 2040, as the role of coal and even natural gas decline, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecast. Installed solar capacity will increase 14-fold and wind capacity fourfold by

By - Jim Vess

Price of solar falls below $1 a watt, but future prices imperiled by trade case

Energize Weekly, June 21, 2017 The federal SunShot Initiative set a goal of an installed price for photovoltaic solar modules of less than $1 a watt by 2020. It looks like the future is now as module prices in 2017 have dipped below $1 a watt. “The price for a module dropped much faster than anyone expected,” said Ben Gallagher,

By - Jim Vess

Natural gas-fired plants cheapest to build, wind farms the cheapest to operate, EIA data shows

Energize Weekly, June 14, 2017 The cost of building new electricity generation is coming down across the board with the biggest strides in natural gas-fired plants, according to construction surveys by the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). From 2013 to 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, the cost of a natural gas plant dropped 28 percent

By - Jim Vess

States and utilities across the country are moving on grid modernization, survey finds

Energize Weekly, June 7, 2017 Actions to modernize the nation’s electric grid—some small, some sweeping—are underway this year by utilities, state regulators and legislators in 37 states and the District of Columbia, according to a new survey by the NC Clean Technology Center. “We are still at an early stage,” said Autumn Proudlove, a senior policy analyst with the center.

By - Jim Vess

As renewable electricity is added to the grid, are power markets misfiring?

Energize Weekly, May 31, 2017 When increasing megawatt-hours of variable solar and wind energy began coursing through the grid, the initial concern was an operational one—could grid reliability be maintained. But it turns out those megawatt-hours are creating market challenges, as well. What needs to be done to right the markets? Travis Kavulla, vice chairman of the Montana Public Service

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